Villa Lifting the Curse and Closing Things the Ugly Way

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Unai Emery’s First Three Games.

As tempting as it was to fire out a GBU as soon as the final whistle went on Villa beating Manchester United for the first time at home in 27 years, experience has taught me to hold off…

By Phil Shaw

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The Good

No team should have to wait 27 years to beat another at home in any sport. It was more than an embarrassing stat, it felt like some otherworldly hoodoo.

Yet in the space of a few days, Unai Emery got a Villa team to achieve what many thought was becoming impossible and defeat the Red Devils at home.

It was a similar scoreline but a different game to the one that started the 1995-96 season. Villa blitzing United in the first half before a measured and controlled performance in the second half. 27 years ago, United bossed the second half.

Of course, there was the Luke Shaw deflected goal to reduce the deficit before half-time, but this was soon wiped out by Jacob Ramsey and a trademark top-corner finish early in the second half.

It was after this and in the subsequent league victory away at Brighton, that the real good news came for Villa fans.

Unai Emery in a short timeframe has managed to make Aston Villa go from the naive one-trick-pony in the Premier League to a team countering and proactively adapting to the match situation.

Emery and his tactical switches and substitutions are in stark contrast to his two predecessors, Dean Smith and Steven Gerrard.

Both previous managers seemed to be reluctant to change tactics and personnel if Villa were in a decent position.
Philosophies that not only failed to use their full squad, but cost both matches, when the opposition changed tact.

Emery, already seems more calculating than this, and his multiple changes of formation and players in game are already a stark change.

Nobody is safe either, no matter how good a game you are having, if the tactical need to be replaced comes up Emery does it to see out the game.

You wouldn’t have seen the predecessors replacing Danny Ings on a hat-trick and playing one of his best games in a Villa shirt.

Tactical flexibility is something alien to Aston Villa fans so it will be interesting to see how this develops after the World Cup break.

Villan of the Week – Jacob Ramsey

Jacob Ramsey or the man with two assists and a goal in Emery’s first three games, is evolving again.

After a brief impact under Steven Gerrard, Ramsey became hamstrung in the midfield trio of Luiz, McGinn and himself. Under Emery, he is rereleased to carry the ball and pick a pass.

His assists for Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey were both perfectly weighted and another threaded pass against Brighton should have led to a goal.

How Ramsey develops the rest of this season, will probably shape the Aston Villa team from now on. Where will his best position end up?

The Bad

Of course, it’s not all good news. Despite a decent performance, Aston Villa again went out of a cup competition to Manchester United.

Unai Emery made more changes than many fans would have liked, but at one goal apiece in the second half, he dropped the hammer and went for it. It was a risky plan, but it looked to have paid off when Leon Bailey forced an own goal for Villa to lead.

However, this is Aston Villa and Emery hasn’t had long enough to change some of the frailties. Three poor goals were conceded before the end, despite Villa bringing on first team defenders like Mings and Cash.

Emery’s preferred tactic of playing out from the back is going to take time to implement and also time for the players to realise when it isn’t the best option.

When a new manager comes in and this is his ethos, players could be forgiven for trying it at every opportunity. Both Robin Olsen, against United, and Emi Martinez against Brighton, tried to force passes that weren’t on.

Villa have been toying with the idea of playing out from the back under Smith and Gerrard, so maybe it’s no bad thing Emery is going to commit to it fully. Just be prepared for some hiccups.

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The Ugly

What a way to win against Brighton that was. Completely shutting down the game and suffocating their play by any means necessary.

How many times has this so-called ugly anti-football been used against Villa since promotion?

The fact that Villa were singled out in the press afterwards is hypocritical, considering Newcastle employed a more violent version of the tactic against Chelsea the previous evening to much acclaim.

Football can be a beautiful game, but it needs to be a results-based game first and foremost. Emery may just be helping the players finally realise what it takes to succeed in the modern Premier league.

Sometimes you have to win ugly or risk not winning at all.


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